WASHINGTON: Top US and Chinese negotiators met on Thursday for the first time since late July to try to find a way out of a 15-month trade war as new irritants between the world’s two largest economies threatened hopes for progress.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer greeted Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on the steps of the USTR office before a meeting in which they will seek to narrow differences enough to avoid an escalation of tit-for-tat tariffs that have roiled financial markets and stoked fears of a global recession.
The mood surrounding the talks soured this week when the US government blacklisted 28 Chinese public security bureaus, technology and surveillance firms and imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials over allegations of abuses of Muslim minorities in China.
Beijing is planning to tighten visa restrictions for US nationals with ties to anti-China groups, sources said.
US President Donald Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods on Oct. 15 if no progress is made in the on-again, off-again negotiations.
That would make nearly all Chinese goods imports into the United States – more than $500 billion – subject to tariffs.
“Big day of negotiations with China,” Trump said on Twitter. “They want to make a deal, but do I?” He added that he would be meeting with Liu at the White House on Friday.
Chinese officials indicated more willingness to negotiate. “The Chinese side came with great sincerity, willing to cooperate with the US on the trade balance, market access and investor protection,” Xinhua quoted Liu as saying on Thursday.
A US Chamber of Commerce official said there was a possibility US and Chinese negotiators would reach a currency agreement in exchange for a delay of the tariff hikes.
Major US stock exchanges were trading higher on hopes of progress in the talks.